Genetics of Aging

Unlike performing genetic studies for development and disease, aging genetics is more complicated because of certain features that are unique to this phenotype. For example, the organism becomes old in the process of selecting for longevity and, thus, even if we find a long-lived organism, its reproductive ability would have declined, making it difficult to recover the organism. Thus, the parental population must be continuously bred until we are able to identify the progeny that has a long span. This could also be achieved by preserving parental sperm. In some organisms like C. elegans, they can be maintained in a cryogenically frozen state, facilitating the easy maintenance of large numbers of strains (Johnson, 2003). Thus, it is possible to identify the progeny of those that have long-lived survivors and recover them from a frozen state. While such advantages exist in lower organisms, the logistics of large-scale screens in vertebrates, like mice, to recover the organism from frozen sperm samples is not particularly practical. A similar situation exists in zebrafish as well because even if we preserve sperm, by the time we identify the long-lived survivors and then recover the mutation, it becomes an arduous task. Thus, a vertebrate model organism that circumvents these problems is needed.

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